Official urges less reliance on contractors

Agency officials need to stake out more definitively the functions only government employees can perform and then build the acquisition workforce’s capabilities around them, a congressional procurement expert said recently.

Officials may need to rethink their policies on those functions because the traditional term “inherently governmental” hasn’t been applied appropriately enough, Peter Levine, general counsel at for the Senate Armed Services Committee, said at a conference held by the Coalition for Government Procurement. on May 28.

The general view of inherently governmental functions doesn’t provide the boundaries necessary in today’s environment, where contractors work side-by-side with federal employees, he said. It seems agencies designate inherently governmental functions as simply the final sign-off authority on a contract, but they allow contractors to handle work on projects up to that point, he said, adding that  such a definition may hurt agencies over the long term.

“You may have the final sign-off authority, but you may not have the knowledge and capability to understand what it is you’re signing off on,” he said. “You may have given up that governmental function even though technically you’ve maintained what you need to maintain.”

However, redefining the term  inherently governmental  won’t solve the problem by itself, Levine said. Instead, the government must draw lines around the core functions of a government official and build the federal workforce’s capabilities around them. he said, adding that pinpointing core capabilities is essential to ensure agencies have the knowledge and skills to do the job right on their own.


“We cannot be reliant on contractors to protect the taxpayer for us,” he said. “At the end of the day, we need to have government officials who will take responsibility for that.”

Although Levine said he isn’t opposed to delegating work to contractors, such as performing a study or market analysis, the line blurs when contractors work and attend meetings as if they are government officials. It becomes a particularly troubling problem because agencies can’t tell when they are relying on contractors because of the blurred lines, he added.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.